Leaving the Kids Table: Reimagining Professional Development for Graduate Students

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Graduate students can innovate and not rely on simple mimicry of our teaching mentors. In this discussion, we will explore the experience of the graduate student instructor developing an online class using a case-study approach for graduate student professional development.


Leslie Short Doctoral Student, Curriculum and Instruction Master's in Education, Learning Systems Design and Technology (2016) Master's in Public Administration (2009)

Extended Abstract

When undergraduates sign up for the required classes for their programs, they don’t get to choose whether or not that class is taught by a seasoned, tenure-track faculty member or a green, first semester doctoral student. That student deserves a quality education from anyone and everyone teaching classes at the university. Faculty have all sorts of resources available to them. They have the memories of when they were in class, remembering the ways in which they enjoyed learning. They have years of practice teaching the same class, thus have been able to hone what works and weed out what doesn’t. They have colleagues that they can run ideas by. Most universities have instructional designers on staff who can help these faculty teach in the most efficient and effective ways by following best practices. Faculty are a part of a professional community with infinite resources. Graduate student instructors, on the other hand, often feel alone. We rely on reflecting upon the classes and teachers that had the greatest impact on us. We teach by mimicry. It can feel as though we are all alone in the sea of academia. We fear reaching out for help or asking for resources makes us look incompetent and not ready to teach a class or we simply don’t know that there is help available to us. Rarely do we know the full power of our institution’s LMS, or know what additional classroom technology is available to us. Thus, graduate student instructors are banished to the proverbial kids table. We’re allowed at the party (we’re teaching in the classroom) but we are apart from the so-called adults (faculty), who are seasoned and accustomed to the tricks of the trade. Graduate students can be effective teachers in the classroom. We can innovate and not fall back to simple mimicry of our teaching mentors. There are resources on campus to help us flourish in the classroom, including the lived experiences of fellow graduate students who encounter the challenges of designing a learning environment. In this discussion, we talk about how a graduate student first time instructor develops a class, prepares to teach it, and executes the class for the first time using a case-based learning approach. This approach is the basis for graduate student professional development that actively incorporates the graduate student in critical thinking and problem solving of the authentic problems. This exercise provides graduate students with the opportunity to analyze situations and processes, evaluate instructional strategies and collaborate with peers to discover solutions that will ease the transition into the teaching and learning community practice.